Thursday, May 31, 2007

Better.... Stronger... Faster

Two things about me as a child:
1) I loved me some "Bionic Woman"
2) I was a blind as a bat

I still am quite visually-challenged. For me, it is just a way of life. A thing that has always been. I don't remember a time when I didn't wear glasses. I can look back at pre-school pictures and see that I don't have them. But I don't actually have the memory of not wearing my heavy coke-bottle lenses in cheesy plastic frames.

My optometrist put me in contacts at age 8. Sure, that doesn't sound so remarkable NOW, but remember, this was the late 70's, and back then, such drastic measures were unheard of. (Not to mention, they put me in hard lenses. Not today's "rigid gas permeable" which are so much kinder to the eye). The idea was that the firm lenses would provide some resistance for the cornea, and perhaps retard the speed at which my growing young eyes were deteriorating. However, putting hard lenses into an eye is not the most comfortable feeling, and I was a child. Needless to say, I was not terribly regular about care and cleaning for my lenses and thus I inflicted upon myself any number of corneal abrasions, infections, corneal neovascularization and (my favorite) corneal ulcers (like herpes cold sores in your eyes... so pretty and so much fun!)

In my teen years, vanity won out and I began to utilize and care for my contacts much more. They became a part of every day routine: Wake, stagger to bathroom, reach for case, rub lens with cleaner, rinse off thoroughly (they aren't kidding about that), then put tiny pieces of plastic in eye. Proceed with day.

As I learned the appropriate sterilization and storage techniques, the amount of bodily damage decreased. However, the lens body count continued to mount. One contact actually "popped" and split while in my eye. A few have slipped off the iris & wedged themselves behind the upper eyelid. One contact was knocked out by the draft caused by a Frisbee speeding by my face. My childhood best friend washed another down the drain. One plummeted onto disgusting carpet at Chuck E. Cheese. One oversexed lens leaped out of my eye and into the lap of the boy on whom I was sitting during a 'tween flirting session. Imagine his joy when in my panic, I began pawing his crotch fervently. I'm still not sure he believed me when I said, "No, I'm just looking for my contact"

Because of the state and situation of my eyes and continuously degenerating vision, soft contacts or extended wear are not an option. So I resigned myself for a very long time to the fact that this was the way my optical life operated.

And then the buzz around LASIK began. Science and technology promised to fix and replace that which was no longer useful. With just a few moments of precise laser incisions, and a wham-bam-thank-you-mam recovery time, one might see clearly again.

At first, I resisted... unsure of long term effects and a bit cynical of all this 'new fangled science'. But the more I thought about it over the last year, the more intrigued I became. Of course, it doesn't help that in the last 16 months, my eyes have deteriorated severely again, and the contacts I bought in late '05 (as well as the 'back up' glasses I purchased this time last year) no longer correct me to 20/20. Additionally, my night vision has grown dangerously bad. Halos and glare keep me from focusing on the road, and reading street signs is just plain impossible.

So with my hope and hat in hand, I made an appointment with the local laser eye center. 60 minutes later, after multiple exams and painfully bright pictures of my retina, I was told.... No Go. That's right kids, my prescription is too extreme and my cornea is simply too thin to withstand the surgery. *sigh*

There is one option that might be available. Intraocular lenses (IOL)are tiny bits of plastic placed directly into the eye. As the doctor helpfully explained, a flap in the cornea is cut open and peeled back. The IOL is then attached BY CLAWS to the mid peripheral iris. Doesn't that sound like fun?

The surgery is more intensive than LASIK, requiring a full surgical suite and on-call anesthesiologist. The lenses must be custom made, requiring a number of weeks prep time. The surgery itself takes longer than a LASIK procedure. Recovery time is longer as well, taking as much as 3 - 5 days for full vision to return. Because of this, they only do one eye at a time. So add in an additional 2 weeks between your surgeries, during which time one eye is healing and the other is as crappy as you started with. yay.

Did I mention the implant attaches "by CLAWS"!?!

Did I mention that your very own Steve Austin eye will cost you 2 - 3x more than LASIK?


I didn't realize how much I wanted LASIK until I was told it wasn't an option. I didn't realize how tired I am of not being able to see, until it once again became the only way to be. And I didn't realize how really scared I am of eventually ending up without any vision at all.... until now.

Tag recently bought me a beautiful little digital camera, and I find myself carrying it with me at all times right now. It's like I want to capture every image that moves me and burn it on to my memory's retina.... so that further down the road, I can, if needed, flip through the photo album in my mind.

Bionics remain, in my world at least, just a piece of science fiction, suitable for vintage TV.


sundaycynce said...

SO SORRY! What a downer when you finally got up the courage or determination or whatever to go check.

The Dung Beetle said...

I've also has chronic eye problems from as early as kidnergarden. Though mine are only due to extreme nearsightedness and are not as bad as yours, I empathize.

When my money is right, I plan on having lasic surgery, and I use to take that for granted. Not anymore. I'm pulling for you, and I hope that technoogy finds a better solution for you.

Amber said...

Oh my gosh, ME TOO! I was given hard contacts at a young age for the same reason, and then told-- granted, when it was still pretty new-- that I was not good for LASIK, too. I still might check it out again, see if it has changed an dcan help me. But babe, I am BLIND as a BAT! Same issues at night, too. Ugg. Hate it. But I was once told I could be blind by the time I was in my mid thirties, if it didn't slow down. And now I am mid-thirties, and at least I can see with the hards. I try not to think too hard about the years to come. heh.

Thanks for your visit. Nice to "meet you". ;)


Tag said...

I was just talking to our Research Director about bionic parts. Apparently they are getting very close to making digital implants work. Basically it is a digital camera for your eyes. People with various types of vision degradation have successfully had thier vision restored with these lenses.

Diane's husband is getting brand new knees and the doctor told him he will walk with them the next day, in three weeks they won't be sore.

Maybe the future isn't so far off?